Mayor and councillor aligned on oil ethics

Dunedin City councillor Jinty MacTavish has been promoting classifying the oil industry as “unethical” alongside the tobacco and armaments industries. Mayor Dave Cull has used similar terminology.

MacTavish on her Facebook page:

Working to attract unethical industry to our city (and expending ratepayers’ resource to do so) feels to me a highly dubious activity for Council to be engaged in. I would very much hope we wouldn’t do it for cigarettes or munitions – what’s the difference with oil and gas, when science tells us the fruits of that industry will also erode the livelihoods of, and cause misery for, millions of people?

(Water erodes the livelihoods of, causes misery for millions of people. Is supplying water unethical?)

I’m curious to hear your perspectives, folks. The Waipori Fund is designed to provide a dividend to Council, to offset rates. It’s currently not invested in tobacco or armaments, presumably because the fund manager considered these unethical. Personally, I question the ethics of $1.7M of it being invested in fossil fuel companies. Council will be considering whether we need to adopt some formal ethical investment guidelines for the Fund, later in the month. What, if anything, do you think Council should be avoiding investments in?

Dave Cull interviewed on One News – Dunedin invests $1.7m in oil companies:

Up to this point the policy has been that the treasury company can invest in a number of things including oil companies, there are probably a number of things, the parameters off the top of my head would not allow them to invest in, for example armaments or tobacco or whatever, but up to this point that’s been the policy.

Are these comparisons, or are Cull and MacTavish working together on this?

“Up to this point” is presumably a reference to the ethics of investments being under review.

MacTavish seems keen on making investments in oil and gas banned as unethical.

But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base, feels to me as unethical as it does stupid**. If Council is in the business of wooing multinational coorperations to set up shop in Dunedin (which seems a questionably approach to economic development anyway) we could at least choose one that enhanced our brand and city offering, rather than detracting from it.

In my view, Council investments (whether staff time or cash), should be informed by its community’s views on what it’s right and ethical to be involved in. Thanks to submissions made to last year’s Annual Plan, we’ll be considering a ethical investment guidelines for the Waipori Fund in a few weeks time (will keep you posted on that). Perhaps there’s merit in considering extending those guidelines to cover other areas of Council investment (like staff time).

She is also proposing that any council involvement in oil and gas be ruled out as unethical.

How involved with this strategy is mayor Cull? Is there a wider plan to exclude any involvement with oil and gas?

1 Comment

  1. That’s an interesting position. Let’s go further. They presumably promise not to use tobacco or munitions. Do they promise not to use oil or gas? Does it become a less than ethical position when you continue to use the very things you claim will cause misery for millions?

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